Colon Cancer Prevention Project working to save lives through screenings

Colon Cancer Prevention Project working to save lives through screenings
Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 3:49 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Colon cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the country and March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. The cancer usually starts with abnormal polyps, a highly treatable cancer when found early through screenings. In 2012, Kentucky had the highest colon cancer incidence rate in the U.S.

In this month’s Link to Hope, we’ll show you how one Kentucky group is working to save more lives across the state.

When actor Chadwick Boseman died last year at 43, many had no idea he was battling colon cancer.

His death though, says Dr. Whitney Jones of Louisville, should be a wake up call.

“The problem is in Kentucky our colon cancer problem starts at least a decade earlier than most states,” said Dr. Whitney Jones, a Louisville gastroenterologist.

According to the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, one in five Kentuckians with colon cancer are diagnosed younger than 55.

Dr. Jones, the founder, is working to change that statistic through early detection and education.

“Our mission is to increase colorectal cancer screening across the Commonwealth, not to re-study whether screening works, but to really focus on screening,” said Dr. Jones.

When Dr. Jones started the project nearly 20 years ago, only one in three Kentuckians were getting screenings, now its two in three and the rate of colon cancer is down more than 25 percent.

Screenings like a colonoscopy and at-home test kits are key in detecting early signs of colon cancer.

“Some of our biggest areas that still lack screening are urban areas, particularly among African Americans, but interestingly also among eastern Kentucky and Appalachians,” said Dr. Jones.

With more people being diagnosed young, the American Cancer Society recently recommended people screenings start at 45 instead of 50.

“We know that we just have to start our messaging earlier and our screening on time and we can take care of the vast majority of under age 50 if we just followed the current guidelines with the current tests,” said Dr. Jones.

If there is any good news, another link to hope is that Kentucky, in the last ten years, has gone from the 49th worst state to 20th in terms of screening rates.

It’s a number Dr. Jones hopes to see go even lower.

“The disease is changing and we all have to become more aware and really be in tuned with our bodies,” said Dr. Jones.

If you are ages 45-75, uninsured or underinsured, the Kentucky Cancer Screening Program works with Kentucky CancerLink to help provide colon cancer screenings.

Click here for more on symptoms and risk factors.

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